Scholarly article on topic 'Formulas and Topics in Turkish and English Compliments'

Formulas and Topics in Turkish and English Compliments Academic research paper on "Languages and literature"

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Abstract of research paper on Languages and literature, author of scientific article — Can Şakırgil, Hatice Çubukçu

Abstract This study aims to describe compliment Speech Events across English and Turkish Languages in terms of their formulas and topics. The data consists of 50 English and 50 Turkish compliments naturally produced by native speakers. The Field Method was used as a data collection tool. The compliment formulas are described and topics are classified according to possession, appearance, performance, attribute and skill. The findings suggest that performance of compliments in both groups are quite formulaic regarding their generic structures and show strong similarities and differences in this aspect, providing some implications regarding pragmatic competence.

Academic research paper on topic "Formulas and Topics in Turkish and English Compliments"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 70 (2013) 1126 - 1135

Akdeniz Language Studies Conference 2012

Formulas and topics in Turkish and English compliments

Can §akirgila*, Hatice Çubukçub

aÇag Universitesi, Adana Mersin Karayolu, Mersin 33800, Tiirkiye bÇukurova Universitesi, Balcah Kampiisii, Adana 01330, Tiirkiye

Abstract

This study aims to describe compliment Speech Events across English and Turkish Languages in terms of their formulas and topics. The data consists of 50 English and 50 Turkish compliments naturally produced by native speakers. The Field Method was used as a data collection tool. The compliment formulas are described and topics are classified according to possession, appearance, performance, attribute and skill. The findings suggest that performance of compliments in both groups are quite formulaic regarding their generic structures and show strong similarities and differences in this aspect, providing some implications regarding pragmatic competence.

© 2012 The Authors. Published b y Elsevier Ltd. Selection and peer-review under responsibility of ALSC 2012

Keywords: Speech Events; Speech acts; Compliments; Compliment Responses

1. Introduction

This research reports on a study which described the formulas of Compliment Speech Events in Turkish and American English. It also explains the topics of the Compliments in both languages. In line with the basic aim of this study, the data used in this research was compiled from naturally occurring talk in interactions of Complimenting Speech Events of 50 American English and 50 Turkish dialogues. The data was collected via the Field Method as suggested by Clark and Bangerter (2004). The analysis has been conducted quantitatively and qualitatively by means of the Conversation Analysis principles.

* Can Sakirgil. Tel.: +90-535-768-96-55; fax: +90-324-651-48-11. E-mail address: cansakirgil@cag.edu.tr.

1877-0428 © 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and peer-review under responsibility of ALSC 2012 doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.01.168

2. Review of Literature

Compliments are described as speech acts which explicitly or implicitly attribute credit to someone other than the speaker, usually the person addressed, for some 'good' (possession, characteristics, skill, etc.) which is positively valued by the speaker and the hearer (Holmes, 1988).They have been viewed as the social lubricants of human interaction and a great deal of language communities have been reported to employ complimenting behavior in order to harmonize their social consents. Since they are one of the major units of social interaction, compliments as speech events have intrigued many researchers.

Recent studies on Compliment and Compliment Responses have suggested a variety of results regarding the structures, functions and contents of social interaction. Some of these studies focus on the lexical characteristics of Compliments such as the studies carried out by Manes and Wolfson (1980), whereas some others draw attention to the syntactic features of Compliments such as Wolfson (1984). There are also many different studies that compare different features of Compliments and Compliment Responses across different speech communities or across native and non-native speakers of English such as Chen (1993), Chiang and Pochtrager (1993) and Holmes (1988). However, an interesting study that attracted our attention and inspired this study is a study carried out by Golato (2002). In her comparative study of American English and German Compliment Responses, Golato discovered that there are similarities and differences between the languages. American English speakers differ from Germans in terms of their agreement sequences in Compliment Responses. The research reports that when Germans agree or accept a Compliment, none of the speakers use an appreciation marker. In other words, there is no speech act of thanking in their responses; whereas, American English speakers use thanking in the second pair-part of Compliment Speech Events. Another finding of the study implies that German speakers tend to direct their compliments to someone other than themselves in terms of the content of Compliment Responses. Germans also are suggested to reject compliments less than Americans. On the other hand, American English speakers are inclined to downtone the Compliments instead of outward rejection.

Two important studies comparing English-speaking cultures emphasize that appropriate behavior can change among cultures even when interlocutors share similar linguistic background. Herbert (1989) compared data from South African and American university students and found out that the frequency of compliments are higher among American participants than those of the South African ones. The compliment topics are very similar and they are mostly about appearance. An interesting finding is that there are many more acceptances of compliments in the South African data than the American data. Creese (1991) compared British and American English data among teachers, and found, as Wolfson and Manes (1980) also did, that compliments are employed to show solidarity, gratitude and to encourage. Creese (1991) noted differences in two areas. The first one is syntactic, where British participants prefer the syntactic category ('I (really) like/love + N'). Another difference is the topic of the compliment. For American participants, appearance is favoured, while in the British data ability was generally complimented.

Daikuhara's (1986) study analyzed compliment and compliment responses within a group of Japanese and American English interlocutors. Many of the functions are suggested to be similar to those found by Wolfson and Manes (1980), namely that compliments serve to establish solidarity between same-status speakers. However, many compliments are also given so as to find out additional information about a subject. The author hypothesized that Japanese people do not give very many compliments. However, this turned out not to be the case. The author suggested that the high number of Japanese uses of No, no. and That's not true, is an occurrence of transfer from Japanese. The application of such phrases is used to defer or show politeness towards the speaker. It is also found that, rather than disagreeing with a

compliment, Japanese speakers downplay the compliment or accept it in much the same way as American speakers, employing 'thank you' following a compliment. The study also suggests that syntactically, the formula 'I like/love + N' does not appear in the Japanese exchanges.

Such studies across languages are especially important in foreign language teaching. Bringing a detailed description and explanation of various Speech Events to the classroom can aid teachers in teaching the specific Speech Acts that are essential for communicative competence. Even though there are various studies comparing English with other languages in terms of Compliment Speech Event, there is a gap in literature when it comes to analyzing, describing and comparing Compliment Speech Events in Turkish. Studies carried out in Turkish Compliments mainly focused on politeness, gender and conversational maxim, such as Ruhi (2006).

3. Methodology

The aim of this study is to describe Compliment Speech Events across English and Turkish Languages in terms of their formulas and topics. Because of this, the data, which consisted of 50 English and 50 Turkish compliments produced by native speakers, were collected with the use of The Field Method. Compliment formulas and topics were described according to earlier conventions used by Pomerantz (1978) and Golato (2005). The topics were classified according to possession, appearance, performance/skill and attribute.

Although our major aim was to describe compliment speech acts in this paper, we have conducted the analysis at the Speech Event level. A Speech Event is a unified set of components having the same purpose of communication, the same topic, the same participants and the same language variety such as exchanging greeting, telling the time, and complimenting. Also a speech event is a larger unit with multiple turns in which participants interact via language in some conventional way to arrive at some outcome, such as asking the time or inviting someone somewhere (Hatch, 1992). Thus, we also included the compliment responses and possible sequences to follow by which the compliment speech act was usually completed. An investigation of the speech act would have been incomplete without considering the hearer's part in realizing a speech act.

4. Findings

1.1 Compliment Formulas in Turkish and English

The analysis of the Speech Events in this study revealed that in Turkish there are five different pairs or categories regarding Speech Acts in which Compliment and Compliments Response structures occur in terms of their formulas.

As seen from Table 1., Turkish Compliment Speech Events can be divided into five categories. 80% of the samples of compliments in the Turkish data were realized through the formulas that ended with an accepting act. This may suggest that Turkish culture is prone to accept the force of a compliment. It also reports that complimenting as a Speech Event can have a formulaic nature.

Table1.

Compliment formulas for Turkish

_frequency %

51 : [ Compliment ] 40 80

52 : [ Accepting ]

51 : [ Compliment ] 6 12

52 : [ Demanding Reassurance ]

51 : [ Compliment ] 2 4

52 : [ Ignoring ]

51 : [ Compliment ] 1 2

52 : [ Rejecting ]

51 : [ Compliment ] 1 2

52 : [ Providing Account ]_

TOTAL 50 100

Excerpt T1 is an example of Compliment - Accepting formula in Turkish: Excerpt T1

S1 : Saçlann çok çirin olmuç ama. [compliment]

"You hair is very cute, though."

S2: Ayy sag ol canim. [accepting]

"Oh, thanks sweetie."

Another formula observed in the Turkish data was that the hearer responds to the compliment by demanding reassurances, as illustrated in the excerpts below. 12 % of the samples of compliments in Turkish were realized through the formulas that ended with a demand for reassurance. When the Compliment Response of the hearer included a questioning act or move which does or doesn't require an answer, this act or move is called a Demanding Reassurance Act. The name of this act should not always be regarded as a real demand for reassurance because, most of the time, the interlocutor demanding the reassurance doesn't wait for an answer. However, in some of the exchanges, a habitual answer is provided to the hearer by the speaker. Moreover, it should be noted that even the smallest sound unit, such as hn? (huh?) or di mi? (right?) could operate as the demanding reassurance. Excerpt T2 is an example for the Compliment - Demanding Reassurance formula in Turkish:

Excerpt T2

51 : Aaa ne guzel olmuç saçlann. [compliment]

"Ohh, your hair was done so beautifully."

52 : 01mu§ mu ? [demanding reassurance]

"Was it?"

SI : Olmuç olmuç

[reassuring]

"Yes, it was."

As illustrated in the excerpts below, Turkish has another formula in which the hearer responds to the compliment by providing account, where the interlocutor explains the history, origin or the material of the complimented item. Thus this creates the Compliment - Providing Account formula in the Complimenting Speech Events. 2% of the samples of compliments in Turkish were realized through the formulas that ended with a providing account act. Since the number is low, this may suggest that speakers of Turkish do not prefer to explain further about the item complimented. Excerpt T3 is an excerpt from the data:

Excerpt T3

51 : Helen'e pantolon yaki§mi§. [compliment] "Pants suit Helen very well."

52 : Evet, gok yaki§iyor. [compliment] "Indeed, very much."

53 : tgime tayt giyiyorum, bol yoksa. [providing account + downtoning] "I wear tights inside, otherwise they are loose."

The analysis of the Speech Events encountered in the English data revealed that in English there are six different pairs or categories regarding Speech Acts in which Compliment and Compliments Response structures occur in terms of their formulas. Table 2. represents English Compliment formulas:

Table 2.

Compliment formulas for English

frequency %

51 : [ Compliment ] 35 70

52 : [ Accepting ]

51 : [ Compliment ] 5 i0

52 : [ Downtoning ]

51 : [ Compliment ] 4 8

52 : [ Rejecting ]

51 : [ Compliment ] 3 6

52 : [ Directing the C to s.one else]

51 : [ Compliment ] 2 4

52 : [ Returning C ]

51 : [ Compliment ] i 2

52 : [ Providing Account ]_

TOTAL 50 100

As seen from Table 2., English Compliment Speech Events can be divided into six categories some of which are identical with Turkish. 70% of the samples of compliments in English were realized through

the formulas that ended with accepting. The high number of Compliment - Accepting formulas may suggest that in American English, Compliments are likely to be responded to with an Accepting act in general.

Another formula in American English is Downtoning. When a Complimenting Act or move is answered with a Compliment Response that is basically softening or mitigating the force of the Compliment, it is described as a Downtoning Act. 10% of the samples of compliments in English were realized through the formulas that ended with a downtoning act. There are only four examples in the data for such a formula as seen from Table 2. Excerpt A1 is an example for the Downtoning formula:

Excerpt A1

S1: Your hair looks great this morning. [compliment]

S2: It's kind of greasy. [downtoning]

S1: No it doesn't look greasy. [reassuring]

The rejecting formula in American English also has a frequency that is worth mentioning. 10% of the samples of compliments in English were realized through the formulas that ended with a rejecting act. Since this number is low in the current data this may suggest that speakers of American English do not prefer rejecting compliments outwardly. Excerpt A2 is an example from the data for Rejecting formula:

Excerpt A2

Si: Are these your great molasses cookies? [compliment]

S2: They're not very good. [rejecting]

The comparison of the Compliment Speech Events' content in both languages suggested some similarities as well as some differences in terms of Speech Acts. Starting with the similarities, three of the pairs were found to be identical in both languages. These were the Compliment - Accepting formulas, Compliment - Rejecting formulas and Compliment - Providing Account formulas. All of the mentioned pairs were present in both languages. This may suggest that interlocutors in both languages have common Compliment Responses that could even be labeled as standard Compliment Responses. The similarities seem to accord with the results of other researches, such as Pomerantz (1978), Herbert (1989), Holmes and Brown (1987) and Nelson, Al-Batal and Echols (1996), who all suggest that Accepting or Rejecting are found in American English as well as other languages such as Arabic and Spanish. Thus it could very well be suggested that these common Compliment Responses are also to be found in Turkish, signifying universality in the Turkish Compliment Speech Events as well. Providing Account has also been suggested to be present in different languages and in American English, as Golato (2003) names the Discourse Act of Providing Account as 'commenting on history' for German and American English. Another study conducted by Herbert (1986) also places commenting on history as a Compliment Response category, which is the second part of the Compliment Speech Event. As a consequence, this research sets forth that Providing History is present in Turkish as a Compliment Response as well as other languages.

The differences, on the other hand, were also present. There were three pairs that were different between the two languages. Looking into the analysis, it was observed that Turkish has the Compliment -

Ignoring formula and the Compliment -Demanding Reassurance formula whereas American English exchanges includes the Compliment -Downtoning formula, the Compliment -Returning Compliment formula, and the Compliment - Directing the Compliment to Someone Else formula. These differences were in terms of Compliment Responses. It is worth mentioning that the Compliment - Ignoring Pair was only to be found among Turkish exchanges, whereas Downtoning, Returning Compliment and Directing the Compliment to Someone Else could also be found in Turkish Compliment Responses but functioning differently, such as a Supportive Act. Thus it should be noted that those different Acts, except Ignoring, were all present in both languages. However, they were not used as the initial Compliment Responses of the Compliment Speech Events, but as Supportive Acts after the initial responses. In general, American English tends to include more formula kinds than Turkish.

1.2 Compliment Topics in Turkish and English

The topics of Compliments which is the main focus of the compliment, or what the compliment is directed at, have been analyzed and categorized. The data yielded five major categories in both languages that the Compliments were directed at. The topics are adapted from Manes and Wolfson (1981). Table 3. represents Turkish Compliment Topics:

Table 3.

Turkish Compliment Topics

frequency %

Possession 24 48

Physical Features 9 18

General Appearance 8 16

Performance/Skill 4 8

Attribute 1 2

TOTAL 50 100

As seen from Table 3., Compliment topics in Turkish were mostly about a possession. 48% of the Turkish Compliments were directed to the possession of the hearers. This might suggest that in Turkish, interlocutors tend to put significance on what people own. There is a variety of possessions that were complimented on, such as clothing, accessories, houses, cups, or even surnames. Another topic category for Turkish compliments was the physical features of the hearers, such as hair or body parts. General appearance of the hearers was also a topic to the compliments. 16% of the data suggested such an occurrence. There were less Compliments on performance/skill and attributes of the hearer, only 8% of the Compliments were directed at performance/skill and 2% to the attributes. Excerpts T4, T5 and T6 are some examples of different topics:

Possession: (bag)

Excerpt T4

51 : Aa gûzelmiç çantan.

52 : Teçekkurler.

Si : H^iatm guzelmiç.

S2 : Sag ol.

Physical Features: (hands) Excerpt T5

51 : Hocam, elleriniz çok guzel. Maçallah.

52 : Teçekkiïrler.

Attribute: (personality) Excerpt T6

51 : Keçke Adana'da yaçiyor olsaydin, kafa adamsin.

52 : Senin giizelligin

As for English Compliment topics, the data suggested a deviation from Turkish as it can be seen from Table 4.

Table 4.

English Compliment Topics

frequency %

Performance/Skill 18 36

Possesion 14 28

Physical Features 9 18

General Appearance 7 14

Attribute 1 2

TOTAL 50 100

The topics of English Compliments were also divided into five categories. Unlike Turkish, the highest number of Compliments was directed at performance/skill in English with 36%. This topic included compliments directed at performing actions, such as writing email/memo, cooking and trimming windows. The next category in English Compliment topics was possession, which includes compliments directed at clothing, accessories, houses, baby beds and physical features, such as hair. 28% of the topics were possession and 18% physical features. This was followed by general appearance with 14%. The lowest number of the topic category was attributes, with 4%. Excerpts A3, A4 and A5 are examples of the different topics.

Possesion: (clothing)

Excerpt A3

51 :Your shirt is so cute.

52 :Ohh please, it's old.

Skill: (cooking)

Excerpt A4

51 :This was great.

52 :Yeah that was a wonderful meal. S1 :Well I am glad you enjoyed it.

Physical Features: (hair) Excerpt A5

51 :Your hair's really pretty.

52 : I know, right?

1.3 Implications for ELT

For learners of a second language to be able to use the target language effectively, they need to develop Communicative and Pragmatic Competence. Speech Acts and the appropriate usage of Speech Acts are one of the most important aspects of Pragmatic Competence. Because of this, acquisition of the conventions and the effective usage of target language Speech Acts are crucial for learners of English as a second language.

As Holmes points out (Holmes, 1988: 486), "compliments are social lubricants, an important part of social interaction". Moreover, they are tightly bound to culture. For this reason, it is important to compare Compliment Speech Events in Turkish and American English. The similarities and differences of the different acts the interlocutors employ should be studied. The analysis and identification of the differences might shed light to such questions: What do learners of English lack in terms of Communicative and Pragmatic Competence? What can be done to help learners acquire target language Speech Act production? The findings of studies which compare two languages might also be of use in developing a foreign language curriculum.

References

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